Behind the curtain of WeWork’s all-male board of directors

WeWork has named six people to its board in advance of its IPO

TRD NATIONAL /
Aug.August 23, 2019 01:56 PM
From left: Lewis Frankfort of Flywheel Sports, Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark, Ronald Fisher of Softbank, Mark Schwartz of Softbank, and John Zhao of Hony Capital (Credit: Stanford University; Softbank; Getty Images)

From left: Lewis Frankfort of Flywheel Sports, Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark, Ronald Fisher of Softbank, Mark Schwartz of Softbank, and John Zhao of Hony Capital (Credit: Stanford University; Softbank; Getty Images)

WeWork recently revealed the makeup of its Board of Directors in advance of its much anticipated IPO, and the selections are already stirring up some controversy.

Many have zeroed in on the fact that none of the board members are women, despite the fact that the co-working giant’s S-1 filing promoted a “culture of inclusivity.” And because WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann remains chairman of the board and its majority shareholder, he retains the ability to outvote all six other board members on virtually any decision, even if they are aligned against him.

Unlike other startups such as Slack and Salesforce, Neumann has not cemented an employment agreement with WeWork ahead of its IPO, and his wife Rebekah Neumann will be responsible for appointing his successor if he dies or becomes permanently disabled within the next 10 years. Venture capitalist Bruce Dunlevie and asset manager M. Steven Langman will also serve on the selection committee.

WeWork declined to comment for this story, and representatives for the board members did not respond to requests for comment.

Here are some of the other key things to know about WeWork’s new board members:

Bruce Dunlevie
The 62-year-old Dunlevie is a founding partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Benchmark, which famously invested in eBay in 1997 and has backed startups such as Uber, Twitter and ZIllow. A 20-plus year veteran in the world of tech investing, Dunlevie was a general partner at the VC firm Merrill, Pickard, Anderson & Eyre and founded Everex Systems’ personal computer division before starting Benchmark. He earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and also serves as the director of One Medical Group. He has been a member of WeWork’s board of directors since 2012.

Ronald Fisher
Fisher, 71, is a vice chairman at WeWork mega-backer Softbank Group, where he’s worked since 1995. He founded SoftBank Capital and was the CEO of Phoenix Technologies before joining the bank. Fisher joined the board of directors at WeWork as part of SoftBank’s 2017 investment of $4.4 billion in the company. The Japanese bank had planned to invest an additional $16 billion in WeWork late last year, but that number later shrank to $2 billion amid concern from investors. Fisher earned an MBA from Columbia University and has been on WeWork’s board of directors since 2017.

Lewis Frankfort
Frankfort, 73, is the chairman of Flywheel Sports and the former executive chairman at luxury accessories brand Coach. He also serves as the executive-in-residence at Sycamore Partners LLC. He started his career in city government, at one point serving as the commissioner of New York City’s Head Start and Day Care programs. He gave the keynote speech at WeWork Summer Camp in 2014, where he told the employees that they could get lucky in business, but there was still “no substitute for working hard.” He has been on the board since 2014, and he has received $6.3 million in loans from the company.

Steven Langman
Langman, 57, co-founded the London-based private equity company Rhône Group in 1996, which last year formed a joint-venture with WeWork named ARK that has pulled together $2.9 billion to invest in buying real estate. Langman is also the chairman of ARK. He previously worked at Goldman Sachs in the mergers and acquisitions department and at Lazard Frères as a managing director, where he also specialized in mergers and acquisitions. He has been on WeWork’s board of directors since 2012.

Mark Schwartz
Schwartz, 65, was until recently a member of the board of directors at SoftBank, a company he formed a close relationship with as a longtime executive at Goldman Sachs. Schwartz had been head of the investment bank’s Asia-Pacific region before retiring in 2016, where he served as the bank’s point person for Alibaba’s record $25 billion IPO. In 2006, he founded the private investment firm MissionPoint Capital Partners, which focuses on using capital to help solve environmental problems. He also serves on the board of the Indian mobile commerce company Paytm. Like Fisher, Schwartz joined the board as part of SoftBank’s $4.4 billion investment in WeWork.

John Zhao
Zhao, 56, is the chairman and CEO of Hony Capital, a major Chinese private equity company. In 2018, the firm helped lead a $500 million Series B investment in WeWork China, and Zhao released a statement praising the company as “a global connector bringing entrepreneurs, startups, and large enterprise companies from around the world together.” He is also a director at several other companies including Lenovo and China Glass Holdings.


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